PR industry condemns astroturfing tactics of Crosby's lobbying firm

PR industry bodies have condemned the tactics and ethics of Lynton Crosby's firm CTF Partners in the wake of a Guardian investigation into the lobbying firm.

The PR industry has distanced itself from Australian political strategist Lynton Crosby and his firm CTF Partners. (Photo: Oli Scarff/Getty Images
The PR industry has distanced itself from Australian political strategist Lynton Crosby and his firm CTF Partners. (Photo: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

Today, the newspaper revealed CTF Partners uses Facebook as a tool to spread false information via a network of unbranded "news" pages for clients including the Saudi government, pro-Brexit groups, fossil fuel lobbyists, Big Tobacco, crooked politicans such as Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak and other contentious clients.

Crosby is a close ally of UK prime minister Boris Johnson and has worked with several conservative governments in election campaigns. CTF Partners declined to comment on their tactics but said they operated within the law and the Guardian was relying on "false or distorted facts".

The PRCA and CIPR quickly distanced themselves from CTF Partners this morning.

Interel Group managing partner and co-chair of the Public Affairs Board George McGregor said these tactics are "a million miles from the professional public affairs industry in the UK, which operates with the highest ethical standards".

He added: "If CTF were a Public Affairs Board member it would be bound by a code of transparency and honesty. They would have to declare their clients publicly, reveal the staff who undertook public affairs and always be up front about who they were representing."

CIPR public affairs chair Rachel Clamp said that astroturfing, the practice in which campaigners attempt to create the perception of grassroots to support a cause, breaches the CIPR's Code of Conduct.

"The alleged practices featured in yesterday's report are entirely unethical and do not - in any way - represent professional lobbying. Lobbying is an essential element of public policy making and the vast majority of lobbyists operate ethically," she said.

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